‘Gaza Siege is Only Virtual’: Italian Journalist who ‘Interviewed’ Hamas Leader Lacks Credibility

Leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar with reporter Francesca Borri. (Photo: via Al Jazeera)

By Romana Rubeo

Italian journalist, Francesca Borri, has allegedly interviewed the top Hamas leader in Gaza,  Yahya Sinwar. However, Hamas sources accused Borri of lying about the nature of the interview. These sources told Al Jazeera, that the Italian journalist has merely taken photos with Sinwar and that the interview was conducted with his press office, via email.

Moreover, Hamas accused Borri of lying about where the interview was set to be published. However, instead of appearing in the Italian and British newspapers,  La Repubblica (where a version of the interview was in fact published) and the Guardian, she sold the interview to one of Israel’s most-read newspapers, Yediot Ahronot. 

Borri, a little-known journalist must have known that publishing an interview with Hamas’ leader in an Israeli Hebrew newspaper, without the permission of the movement is not only a violation of journalistic standards but is a political act par excellence. Expectedly, Hamas went on the defensive, explaining that they have been lied to and that Sinwar’s interview was never intended for an Israeli audience.

However, some Palestinians, even those asymptotic to the movement, criticized Hamas for failing to do proper research before committing to foreign interviews, especially that Borri was in fact published in the same Israeli newspaper in the past.

The Palestine Chronicle translated excerpts of a previous article written by Borri following a visit to Gaza in 2015 and published in the Italian newspaper, L’Internazionale. Not only did Borri’s writing lacked credibility, but her language is reminiscent of a typical orientalist intellectual take on the Middle East – riddled with stereotyped and ignorant assertions.

In the article, Borri claimed that the Gaza siege is ‘virtual’ as in there is no siege on Gaza. She portrayed Palestinian men as corrupt and that the Gaza society lacks any political agency. What is one to make of Gaza’s ‘Great March of Return’, then, where sustained rallies involving all sectors of society and tens of thousands of men and women have protested the Israeli siege on the Strip since March 30?

The text below will further illustrate the point:

“In Gaza, Everybody Wants to Escape”

L’Internazionale, July 15, 2015

“There is no point in telling him that I am not a Muslim, not even Palestinian, that I have typhoid fever so that the Quran would allow me to break the Ramadan fast.

“Actually, there is no point in talking to him in the first place: the Hamas policeman who keeps me in custody for three hours, only because I carry a bottle of water, has no uniform. I know he is from Hamas because I am in Gaza. There is no point in discussing with him: he doesn’t want to listen, he wants to impose.

“At the end, he pockets (takes a bribe) 100 dollars off the books and he lets me go.

“This is Hamas, today. They stand at the checkpoints with their flashlight, to make sure that the guy who’s driving is your father or your husband; that you are not smoking a cigarette or watching a TV match while drinking a beer.

“And they want to make sure that you don’t write anything against them.

[…]

“Hamas lost part of its generous friends from the Gulf, (who are) now more focused on Syria and Iraq; Iran is disappointed because they (Hamas leaders) didn’t support Syrian President (Bashar) Assad. So they try to collect more money by levying taxes. Gaza siege, today, is only virtual. You can actually find everything, even Nutella: and everything comes from Israel.

[…]

“I ask Sharif what’s his vision of Europe. He answers: “I want (to be in a place where I can) shower every morning.”

“Here (in Gaza), nobody supports Hamas. However, there is no political activity at all: “Nobody tries to change things anymore,” says M., one of the founders of the March 15 Movement, which in 2011 took the streets to ask for reforms and democracy, only to be beaten up by both Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in Ramallah, in a rare case of national unity.”

– Romana Rubeo is a freelance translator based in Italy. She holds a Master’s Degree in Foreign Languages and Literature and she is specialized in Audio-Visual and Journalism Translation. An avid reader, her interests include music, politics, and geopolitics. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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