Gaza-based Mahmoud was accused of belonging to the armed Palestinian faction despite no having no connection to it. After a flurry of media reports parroting the claim, he wants to set the record straight.
On Sunday, in the wake of the UK election, Israeli media released a fabricated story accusing a well known Palestinian journalist in Gaza of being part of Hamas and an administrator on the ‘We Support Jeremy Corbyn’ Facebook page.
The story was first published on Tazpit (TPS) News, an Israeli media agency, and was later picked up by the right-wing press in the United States. The information was then repeated throughout Israeli media in both English and Hebrew. By Monday the group supporting the UK Labour Party leader, which has over 70,000 members, was labelled as an “influential” group linked to Hamas by the Times of Israel.
But the story in of itself was built on erroneous claims. The Gazan journalist Walid Mahmoud - referred to by another alias, Walid Abu Rouk, by the Israeli media - is to the best of his own knowledge, not a Hamas member.
There is also no information that has been provided to corroborate this claim and when I questioned him on the issue he had the following to say: “I am not a member of Hamas. I cannot recall when I was made an administrator on the page. I have never posted anything on the page about Jeremy Corbyn. This is not the first time they have attacked me like this, they just want anything to attack Corbyn.” Needless to say, this was not what the original article on the matter from TPS quoted him saying.
TPS News claim that they spoke to Mahmoud over the phone and that he confirmed to them that he had maintained a role as a manager of the page until recently and still has connections to pro-Corbyn activists. But when I reached out to Mahmoud, he told me that he was called by an Israeli journalist about a month ago, who “bragged about being in the army and now being a journalist”. He told me that he declined to comment for the Israeli news outlet as he boycotts Israel. Walid said that the Israeli spoke to him in Arabic and bragged about his role in COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories) which participates directly in enforcing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and besiegement of Gaza.
Fears for life
In a Facebook post Mahmoud has written that he now fears for his life, due to being labelled a Hamas member and that Israel could now justify targeting him in an attack, such as an airstrike against his home. He also stresses that the man who called him to ask for information had threatened him if he did not cooperate.
Corbyn has over the course of his election campaign endured a relentless campaign from pro-Israeli groups and beyond, accusing his party of anti-Semitism. One of the smears used against Corbyn is that he referred to Hamas as his friends. It would be perceived that those who created this story, did so believing that tying a Facebook page which disseminates information about Corbyn, to Hamas, would hurt Corbyn in the elections.
The problem with the numerous articles written by the likes of the Jerusalem Post about Mahmoud’s alleged links to Hamas, is that they have no verifiable information which could possibly prove the well-known journalist’s connection to the governing force in Gaza, nor his position on the Facebook page itself. This leaves many under the assumption that the claim being made is based upon the racist notion that all Gazans are somehow linked to Hamas, a theme which Israel used repeatedly when justifying its recent murder of over 300 protesters at Gaza’s Great Return March.
Mahmoud is a journalist, photojournalist and peace activist who resides in Khan Yunis (Southern Gaza Strip). He is someone that I have personally known for around four years now. He has written in English for the likes of Al Jazeera and Middle East Eye, and his work on the ground in Gaza has been shared by progressive Jewish groups in the United States such as the Jewish Voice For Peace.
Mahmoud has quite literally put his life on the line to bring the world information from the Gaza Strip, witnessing his colleagues die in front of his eyes from Israeli fire during the Great Return March. On March 30, this year he was even shot at by an Israeli sniper and barely escaped death, with his camera blocking the bullet from hitting his head.
Punished for journalism
During Israel’s 2014 bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which it dubbed ‘Operation Protective Edge’, Mahmoud’s home was bombed by Israeli missile fire. The journalist endured living through Israeli internal occupation when he was younger, followed by eight large-scale military operations by Israel against Gaza after the enforcement of the illegal siege.
Now Mahmoud is being punished for merely talking about what he sees happening around him. If for instance he is to travel now, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine this process being made more difficult for him and his family. Hamas is considered by most Western countries to be a terrorist organisation and despite not being a member, he could be perceived as such due to the numerous articles online claiming this.
Mahmoud told me that he would like to take legal action against TPS for their smears and urges all those who published this dis-information to take it down. However because he lives in Gaza, suing an Israeli news outlet would be an extremely difficult process. All of this trouble coming Mahmoud’s way because of an article which reads like a conspiracy theorist blog post claiming proof of deceased rapper Tupac Shakur being alive and well in Cuba.
The TPS article claims to have sources inside of Gaza, which they say told them about a supposed Hamas connection to Mahmoud, yet they fail to provide the names of any such sources. It claims to have intelligence about London-based activists making Mahmoud an administrator of the ‘We Support Jeremy Corbyn’ page, yet they provide no names of those who supposedly made him an administrator. TPS News then claim that Walid, under the supervision of Hamas, still communicates with London Labour activists.
Instead of providing any material evidence of such libelous claims, the article then goes on to claim that because Mahmoud writes for MEMO, Al Jazeera and the Middle East Eye, that he is therefore connected directly to the Muslim Brotherhood.
What made matters worse was that prominent Islamaphobe Robert Spencer, then decided to post this information on his blog site ‘Jihad Watch’, making Mahmoud a potential target for online Islamaphobic hate mail.
Walid in a Facebook post on the whole matter, writes the following points to clear up the situation from his own perspective:
“1- At no point in time was I ever associated with Hamas. I have even been arrested and interrogated by Hamas before in regard to my humanitarian work in Gaza. I'm entirely politically unaffiliated and only represent myself.
2- I was invited to be a co-admin on a pro-Corbyn fan page because I was asked to post occasional updates about daily life in Gaza under blockade. I used my own name for every post I made, without ever hiding.
3- There’s no way I would ever interfere with the UK election — I never posted a single post on the Corbyn Fan page supporting Mr. Jeremy Corbyn or even discussing the Labour Party.
4- I've only learned about (and became very fond of) Mr. Corbyn through his crucial support and recognition of our basic humanity, something that usually is ignored by other British politicians. I was never asked to run any activities supportive of him by any party whatsoever.
5- The Israeli journalist, Baruch Yedid, who fabricated this report about me relies only on one anonymous source falsely claiming that my "excellent command of English" is why I was chosen by Hamas. This is total nonsense.”
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