Welsh journalist releases harrowing podcast based on eyewitness testimony from Gaza
A Welsh Jewish journalist who has been chronicling the link between the Holocaust and the Nakba (Catastrophe), when 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes or fled at the time Israel was founded in 1948, has produced a harrowing podcast based on the eyewitness testimony of a colleague based in Gaza.
Mike Joseph, who had dozens of family members murdered by the Nazis, is the son of refugees from Germany who settled in Cardiff. He now lives in Pembrokeshire. In September he began releasing online episodes of his unsettling podcast series Keys: A Troubled Inheritance, which explores a century of family experience of both victimhood and persecution.
During the making of it he worked with a journalist from Gaza called Sami Abu Salem. Joseph has now released a special episode based on audio reports sent to him by Sami since Israel began its air and land attacks on Gaza following the massacre and hostage taking carried out by Hamas in Israel on October 7.
After the invasion, Sami was forced to leave his home in Gaza City with his family. In the special episode of Keys he records the impact of the bombing and the invasion on the ordinary people of Gaza, including his own struggle to survive and to protect, feed and house his family.
Joseph says: “It’s an assignment that matters to all of us, because this war has divided reporters and reports into two camps: Israeli and international journalists, who are banned from entering Gaza by Israel, so cannot verify anything as eyewitnesses, and Gaza journalists who cannot escape, and often cannot even communicate.
“Over recent weeks, when Sami has had the internet and power, he has managed to record and send us his evidence of a daily struggle to survive. It’s a dangerous job being a journalist in Gaza – since October 7 at least 64 of his Gaza colleagues have been killed.”
Sami tells how the ceiling in his home collapsed after a nearby bombing and he and his wife had to move to the south of the Gaza Strip, in line with Israel’s instructions: “The place where I am living now, I believe it is not safe,” he says. “But there is no other place I can move to. People now are living in the streets, sleeping in the open air.
“Israel have declared that they are going to finish Hamas in the war, which is a big lie, a big deception. Why do I think so? Because Hamas is not just a group of militants. It is an organisation which has social, medical, financial networks, media networks, and it is a part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement around the world. That’s why they are supported internationally by their branches. So it’s not a logical reason. It’s very elastic, which means that Netanyahu has the freedom to continue war for months and maybe for years. Hamas is not going to finish.
“Israeli invasion forces claim they are just targetting Hamas targets, which is not true, according to what I see with my own eyes. I am talking from a hospital, by the way. I have just seen ambulances carrying people from a refugee camp that has been bombed. Lots of kids, women and men are arriving. They are not Hamas. They are ordinary people – normal people just living in their houses and the rockets hit them. Even if there is a target, Israel do not hit the house itself, they hit blocks. In one hit you find, for example, 10 houses, 15 houses or five houses are completely demolished. Is the Hamas target in 15 houses? They are using very strong rockets against civilians. Our demand is just to stop targetting inhabited houses, stop targeting ordinary people.”
Journalists, says Sami, are themselves targets. He tells of an Al Jazeera journalist who, he claims, was warned by the Israelis to stop reporting on Israeli “crimes” in northern Gaza. When he refused to do so, said Sami, his house was bombed and his father was killed.
Sami himself says he had an offer of accommodation withdrawn when he revealed he was a journalist: the landlord believed it was likely that his property would be destroyed by the Israelis.
One family Sami refers to were opponents of Hamas and past victims of Hamas violence – yet they were still targeted by the Israelis. He says: “It is not true that they just target Hamas – it’s a big lie. I saw families killed inside their houses while they were sleeping – Israel bombed them and killed their children. [One family] were enemies of Hamas and they were tortured, arrested and their relatives killed by Hamas years ago.
“Yet they were bombed by Israeli fighters and they were killed, including children, including my cousins. Some of them are my relatives. Seven of my cousins who were children were killed with their mother. Those children lost three of their cousins who were killed by Hamas when they stormed their house in 2007. It is indiscriminate bombing. This war is against us – against people, not against Hamas.”
Sami compares the plight of the Gaza civilians he sees today with that of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were chased from their homes 75 years ago: “People who have been made homeless are pitching their tents just as in 1948,” he says. “It is a new Nakba. The only difference is that here there are cameras, social media and journalists.”
Getting food is difficult since Israel bombarded at least 90% of Gaza’s bakeries. “There is no bread to buy, so you need wheat to make dough, then to bake,” he says. “But [usually] there is no wheat, and even if there is wheat, you need hot water. But there is nothing to make water hot. No cooking gas, no fuel. That’s why people use wood and books – exactly what happened with my wife and my sister when they needed fire for cooking. They selected some books and were quarrelling about which books to burn – exactly like a scene in the movie The Day After Tomorrow [made in 2004 about the consequences of a global storm that creates a new Ice Age].
After witnessing the aftermath of a bombing in which civilians are brought to a hospital, Sami has to take a risky walk of five kilometres to the place where he is staying as there is no fuel for taxis. He says: “I don’t know whether I will make it. Maybe there will be more bombing and shrapnel will hit me. I don’t know. This is how we work.”
He says that hundreds, or maybe thousands, of people are waiting their turn at an old mill to turn raw wheat into bread – but there is no fuel to make the mill work: “I tried to buy something else, maybe pasta, but the shelves of the supermarkets are empty – totally empty,” he says.
Joseph concludes the 30-minute podcast by stating: “This is Sami’s Gaza. No food. No water. No fuel. No safety. Disease and death, I leave it to others, either now or in the future, to declare that all this is no more than collateral damage. Or, on the other hand, that this is how the ethnic cleansing of Gaza starts. Or indeed that this is genocide happening right now as you and I watch and listen. But I will say that what I hear in Sami’s reports from Gaza is simply inhumane.”
The special episode of Keys can be accessed via Mike Joseph’s website
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