Indy writer airbrushes Hamas from five Gaza articles

Yesterday, according to an Associated Press (AP) report, “Several thousand people briefly took to the streets across the Gaza Strip on Sunday to protest chronic power outages and difficult living conditions, providing a rare public show of discontent with the territory’s Hamas government”.  The protest was quickly crushed by police, consistent with what AP described as Hamas “iron fist” rule over the more than two million Palestinians living in the territory.

Yet, an Independent article focusing on the plight of women in the coastal strip, published on the same weekend the Palestinian protests took place,  completely erased the radical Islamist regime from the story.

The piece, (“Women in Gaza: how education is seen as a lifeline for many”, July 29z), written by Paddy Dowling, who describes himself as a “humanitarian” correspondent and photojournalist, not only failed to mention Hamas, but seemed to go out of its way to do so, as you can see in the opening paragraphs:

For generations, the women of Gaza have been overshadowed by men. Their lives were predetermined; forced to marry as young as 13 years old and accept a life of domestic servitude. So what has changed?

Since 2007, the modern-day blockade of the Gaza Strip, enforced by Israel, has fueled one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, at nearly 50 per cent. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) have also reported that 81.5 per cent of the population now live below the poverty line, with nearly 700,000 in abject poverty.

Of course, something else quite significant happened in 2007, which preceded and caused the Egyptian and Israeli blockade: the violent takeover of the territory by the proscribed terrorist group.

In the context of the article’s focus on the challenges face by Palestinian women, the issue of Hamas rule is extremely relevant, as the human rights organisation Freedom House reports:

“The legal system operating in Gaza offers few protections against harassment and discrimination for women”

“Palestinian laws and societal norms, derived in part from religious law, put women at a disadvantage in matters such as marriage and divorce”

So-called honor killings continue to occur, though information on the situation in Gaza is limited. Domestic violence is common, with nearly four in 10 Gazan women facing such violence according to a 2019 PA survey. Rape and domestic violence go underreported and often unpunished, as authorities are allegedly reluctant to pursue such cases, and effective mechanisms for complaints and victim protection are lacking.

Tellingly, Dowling’s airbrushing of Hamas is not a one-off.

  • In an Independent article earlier in the year about Gaza’s electricity shortages, (Gaza: ‘24 hours of electricity a day? This is beyond a dream for us’, Jan. 24, 2023), Dowling similarly managed to avoid using the word Hamas throughout the piece.
  • An article by Dowling last year in the Independent on the plight of Gaza’s children (“Gaza: ’24 hours of electricity a day? This is but a dream for us'”, Jan. 22, 2022) also omitted Hamas.
  • In 2021, in an article at the Independent by Dowling focusing on Gaza’s amputees, (‘I went to work with two legs and left with one: Gaza’s forgotten amputees’, Sept. 14, 2021), he again completely erased Hamas from the story.
  • In 2019, in an article in the Independent by Dowling, also about women in Gaza, (“Women of Gaza: Empowered and Resilient”, Nov. 29, 2019), the word “Hamas” similarly did not appear.

That makes five articles by the journalist published at the Independent over the past four years, encompassing over 5,000 words, about the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza which avoided mentioning the extremist movement that rules the territory.

So, was his price he paid for entry and access into Gaza was a guarantee that he’d keep Hamas out of the story? If so, the fact that neither Dowling nor the Independent were transparent about such a quid pro quo would represent an serious ethical breech.

Either way, how these glaring omissions got past editors is anyone’s guess, and we complained to the outlet asking that the most recent article be corrected.

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