Long-time reporter Dan Scemama succumbs to cancer at 60

Scemama was military reporter, and also a Knesset, political, legal affairs and immigrant absorption reporter.

semama (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Veteran Israel Radio and Israel Television reporter Dan Scemama, 60, died on Saturday night at Tel Hashomer Medical center after a year-long battle with cancer. The Tunisian-born newsman, who came to Israel in his youth, learned his profession at the Second Television Channel in Paris, where he spent the year after his army service. He returned to Israel in 1972 and began his broadcasting career at Israel Television. His death came at a relatively young age, as did that of his father Andre Scemama, a noted foreign correspondent and one of the founding members of the Foreign Press Association in Israel. Andre Scemama, who had been head of the foreign news desk at Israel Radio and later became a foreign correspondent for Radio France, Le Monde and French Television, was constantly at odds with Teddy Kollek, who as director-general of the Prime Minister's Office had introduced a regulation calling for all foreign correspondents to be viewed with suspicion as potential spies. In March and April 2003, Dan Scemama became the subject of international media reports when he and Yediot Aharonot's Boaz Bismuth (who subsequently became Israel's ambassador to Mauritania), together with Portuguese reporters Luis Castro and Victor Silva, were detained for 48 hours by US military police in Baghdad, where the four roving reporters (who were not embedded with the troops) had gone to cover the conflict. Scemama and Bismuth were able to enter Iraq because they were dual nationals who also held French passports. The four were mistreated, physically assaulted and denied the right to contact their families despite the fact that all four held international press cards. Scemama and Bismuth had crossed the border into Iraq by jeep and tailed a US convoy. Following their release, after what they described as the worst 48 hours in their lives, their case and those of other media personnel mistreated by American and British troops were taken up by Reporters without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists. Both organizations demanded a full inquiry into the arrest, assault and detention of the four journalists. The story received enormous coverage in both the Israeli and the international media. Just over 20 years earlier, in 1982, Scemama was the first Israeli reporter to air Israeli protest songs against the war in Lebanon. He had entered Lebanon as a military correspondent for Israel Television and had instructed his cameraman and soundman to record reserve soldiers sitting on the balconies of houses in a Lebanese village singing a song to the effect that they had been sent there by then-defense minister Arik Sharon and a plane would fly over them and bring them back in coffins. The war, initially called Operation Peace in the Galilee, was launched with the aim of removing the threat from Israel's northern borders, especially Syrian surface-to-air missiles and terrorists from southern Lebanon. Initially morale was high, but as the IDF's death toll mounted into the hundreds, there was a public outcry, with demonstrators camped outside the residence of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, monitoring the casualties as they became public. This, plus the death of his beloved wife Aliza in November, 1982, along with the horrifying details of the Sabra and Shatila massacre caused Begin to increasingly isolate himself until he eventually resigned in October, 1983. Without Scemama's initial report, which sparked a chain reaction in the public arena, history might have been written differently. In addition to being a military reporter, Scemama, in the course of a long career, was also a Knesset, political, legal affairs and immigrant absorption reporter. He was also an editor and presenter of Mabat News. The funeral will take place at 3 p.m. Monday at Kibbutz Einat. Scemama is survived by three daughters, two grandchildren and two sisters.