NEW YORK – After standing by its original position for over a week, the Newseum in Washington on Monday reversed its decision to honor two Hamas-affiliated cameramen, citing “serious questions” over their journalistic integrity.
Hussam Salama and Mahmoud al-Kumi were riding in a van marked “TV” when they were killed in the Gaza Strip in 2012. They worked for Al-Aksa TV, a station that Hamas founded in 2005 and began broadcasting in January 2006 after Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections.
The Obama administration designated Al-Aksa TV a terrorist organization in 2010, the US Treasury Department marked it as an arm of Hamas, and the European Union flagged it for its incitement to violence and hatred.
“Terrorism has altered the landscape in many areas, including the rules of war and engagement, law, investigative and interrogation techniques, and the detention of enemy combatants,” Newseum said. “Journalism is no exception.
“We take the concerns raised about these two men seriously and have decided to reevaluate their inclusion as journalists on our memorial wall pending further investigation.”
The reversal came on the same day the museum organization ran a full-page ad in The New York Times highlighting its memorial, which included photos of all those honored, including Salama and Kumi.
“If we may offer a word of advice, [the Newseum] urgently needs to review its vetting process,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. “The two Hamas Al-Aksa TV cameramen never should have been included in the first place – not in the original list, not in today’s New York Times ad, and not on the website. There certainly was ample information available about them and their ‘news outlet.’”
Controversy first stirred over the museum honoring Salama and Kumi when the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a conservative think tank in Washington, threatened to cancel an event at the impressive facility just off the National Mall.
FDD president Cliff May told The Jerusalem Post he gives “great credit to the leadership of the Newseum for re-thinking this issue.”
The Newseum originally stood its ground and supported the two cameramen, citing research from the Committee to Protect Journalists which argued that they were targeted for their work in media.
In a statement to the Post, Gypsy Guillen Kaiser, spokesperson for CPJ, said that the organization's research "shows that the men in question were carrying out reporting at the time they were killed," and that they would not revisit the incident with further investigation unless the IDF chose to provide "new information."
"We defend the rights of journalists targeted for their work or killed in the line of duty regardless of their perspective," Kaiser said. "Israeli officials have broadly asserted that the individuals and facilities it targeted last November were engaged in terrorist activity but have failed to provide information to support their claim, despite CPJ’s repeated requests for clarification."
Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Post that the Newseum is “concerned with values and standards, which makes this previous decision so shocking.
“But what concerns me is the decision they finally made, which is the right one,” Foxman said.