‘Shame on you’: White House journalists’ dinner pro-Palestine protest

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By Creative Media News

  • US activists protest White House correspondents dinner over Gaza conflict
  • Biden’s speech at the event avoids mention of Gaza crisis
  • Palestinian journalists urge boycott, condemn Biden’s stance on Gaza

Protesting against the annual White House correspondents dinner, activists in the United States demanded an end to Israel’s war on Gaza and gathered outside a hotel. They condemned President Joe Biden for his support of the military campaign and Western news outlets’ “under-coverage” of the conflict. 

Biden, who delivered a 10-minute eulogy at the event in Washington, DC on Saturday, did not refer to the conflict in Gaza or the dire humanitarian crisis that has beset the region. 

Protests ensued at the gala event, an occasion traditionally reserved for presidents, journalists, and comedians to ridicule political scandals and one another. Concurrently, antiwar demonstrations proliferated across college campuses in the United States, where students established encampments and resisted police sweeps to compel their institutions to divest from corporations that support Israel’s military operation in Gaza. 

Biden’s motorcade was compelled to deviate from the White House to the Washington Hilton due to the demonstrations in the nation’s capital. Along the way, over a hundred demonstrators, some of whom were carrying Palestinian flags, yelled “shame on you” at hastily entering guests

During one instance, the audiences engaged in chants that read, “Western media, we see you and all the atrocities that you conceal,” while others remained immobile on the sidewalk in front of replicas of soiled flak vests emblazoned with “press” emblems. 

A member of the audience raised a Palestinian flag from a top-floor hotel window of the Washington Hilton, where the dinner has been held for decades, to the delight of the masses. 

The Government Media Office in Gaza reports that since the Israeli military’s invasion of Gaza commenced in October of last year, 142 Palestinian journalists have been slain and at least 40 Israeli journalists have been arrested. 

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 2023 was the deadliest year for journalists in a decade, with approximately 75% of those slain internationally being Palestinians covering the Gaza conflict. 

Although Biden proposed a toast for “press freedom and democracy worldwide” during his address, he neglected to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The majority of his address was devoted to ridiculing his principal opponent in the current presidential election, Donald Trump, and the advanced age of the two men. 

His discourse persisted in centering on the issues he considers crucial in this election, elaborating on how an additional term under Trump’s administration would be more detrimental to the nation than his initial term. 

“This must be treated with seriousness.” “We might have dismissed it as ‘Trump talk’ eight years ago, but not after January 6,” he told the audience, alluding to the Trump supporters who invaded the United States Capitol following Biden’s victory over Trump in the 2020 presidential election. 

Kelly O’Donnell, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), made one of the few references to Gaza when she briefly stated that approximately one hundred journalists have been killed in Israel’s assault on Gaza. 

More than two dozen Palestinian journalists issued a letter before the gala urging their colleagues to abstain from attending and condemning the Biden administration of complicity in Israel’s systematic murder of media personnel in Gaza. 

The letter stated, “The toll exacted on us for merely performing our journalistic duties is staggering.” “The Israeli military subjects us to torture, detention, and interrogation for the ‘crime’ of journalistic integrity.” 

One organizer lamented that the WHCA, which represents the hundreds of journalists who cover the president, has remained largely mute regarding the killings of Palestinian journalists since the earliest weeks of the conflict. There was no response from the WHCA to a request for comment. 

Ahmed Shihab Eldin, a journalist of American-Palestinian descent who authored the letter, stated that media employees should not remain mute out of concern for their employment stability; such conduct is “unacceptable.”

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“Journalists in Gaza continue to be murdered, detained, tortured, and even have their families murdered,” he stated. 

Sandra Tamari, the executive director of Adalah Justice Project, a Palestinian advocacy organization based in the United States that assisted in the organization of the letter from journalists in Gaza, stated, “It is abhorrent that the media dine and amuse President Biden while he permits the Israeli slaughter and starvation of Gaza’s Palestinian population.” 

Furthermore, the Adalah Justice Project initiated an email campaign that specifically targeted twelve media executives representing diverse news organizations who were anticipated to be present at the dinner and had previously endorsed a letter advocating for journalist protection in Gaza. 

“How can you proceed when your colleagues in Gaza have requested that you refrain?” inquired a demonstrator as they escorted in guests. “Your actions are complicit.”

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