Clips of the rubbled remains of Gazan suburbs roll next to correspondents from the Middle East coming forward with stories of intimidation and admissions of self-censorship in “Eyeless in Gaza,” producer Robert Magid’s newest documentary.
The Philos Project, which has funded multiple Hillsdale College trips to Israel, teamed up with HonestReporting, a media watchdog for anti-Semitic journalism, to co-host screenings of this documentary, most notably one at King’s College, a New York-based journalism school. Both Philos and HonestReporting have similar goals: outreach toward non-Jews about Israel and Jewish issues.
“We wanted to reach out to students who are not automatically Jewish,” HonestReporting spokeswoman Julie Hazan said. “This documentary is a typical example of how Israel is poorly portrayed in the media because nobody is talking about intimidation. It was the first time journalists in the Gaza strip were able to say ‘That’s true, there’s a problem, and we weren’t able to do our jobs.’”
According to Hazan, this documentary keeps in line with HonestReporting’s platform because it too seeks to expose aspiring journalists to the reality of one-sided media coverage.
During a panel that followed the King’s College screening, CNN Middle East correspondent Linda Scherzer, film critic and journalist Alison Bailes, producer and Jewish community leader Morris S. Levy, and Professor Paul Glader, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and head of the journalism program at The King’s College.
“The conversation about media coverage is something I have been having with the American Jewish community for the last twenty years,” Scherzer said. “I mean it when I say that I usually direct audiences to HonestReporting when they want to channel their frustrations into activism.”
Magid includes with journalists who had reported in Gaza during the 2014 conflict to unearth instances of censorship and narrative control that Hamas had employed. Selected for two Jewish film festivals, the documentary reveals the struggle reporters face to maintain objectivity in a war-torn region under Hamas’ strict control.
The producer said his intention in filming this documentary was to show how the ‘cogs and wheels’ operate in circumstances of war.
“The media is not immune to what takes place in front of them and while seeing objectivity as a standard they invariably get sucked in and become participants rather than reporters,” Magid said in a press release.
President of Students of Hillsdale Advocating, Learning, and Observing the Middle East (SHALOM) and senior Hannah Brewer said she plans on hosting a small viewing for around 15 students. While renting the film for a day costs $3.04, and purchasing the film costs $7.60, to host an official screening for 30 or more viewers, the club would need to submit an application and pay for the producer’s travel costs to the college.
For Hazan, this documentary is timely in today’s media climate, plagued with inaccuracies in social media and amid accusations of “fake news.”
“We wanted to inform journalists in the making about this documentary,” Hazan said. “Because we are in this era of fake news, this documentary is great because journalism is not dead like everyone is thinking. We still have a chance to do good journalism.”