Posted in Behind the News

‘Our safe place’: News director recounts former Gaza bureau in interview

, by Lauren Easton

AP’s news director for Israel, Palestine and Jordan, Joe Federman, joined Israel’s Channel 12 foreign affairs program “World Order” on Saturday to discuss the destruction of AP’s bureau in Gaza.

The building that housed the bureau, along with the offices of Al Jazeera and other news organizations, was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on May 15.

The Israeli military has defended the strike, saying Hamas was in the building.

The Associated Press has said repeatedly that it had no indication of a Hamas presence in the building. AP has asked for evidence and called for an independent investigation so that the facts are known.

During Saturday’s interview, Federman described the bureau as a second home, noting how AP staff both worked and stayed there, especially during times of war. His comments have been translated from Hebrew:

I was there many times, at least 20 or 30 times. I slept there. Myself and our entire staff there, we never saw any sign that Hamas was in the building. I would enter the building. It was a residential building. You’d enter, there was a small lobby and an elevator. Sometimes I’d see families, children in the elevator. We worked there. We slept there. Especially during war, that was our safe place. It is so dangerous to move from place to place during a war. That was our safe place. It was dangerous. And it breaks your heart to see what happened.
News director Joe Federman on Channel 12's "World Order." (AP Photo)

When asked if it was possible Hamas was in the building, Federman said: “Everything is possible. But if they were -- and I stress if -- we didn’t know anything. We didn’t see anything. And if there was something, we call on the army to show us the evidence.”

Last week the Israeli military’s chief of staff was quoted as saying AP journalists had been drinking coffee with Hamas in a cafeteria in the building. Federman addressed the baseless claim during Saturday’s interview.

“First of all, there’s no cafeteria. It’s ridiculous that he even said something like that,” said Federman. “But what worries me more is how he can hurt our names, our reputations of people who work hard in difficult circumstances -- to give them a bad name without any evidence. It’s irresponsible and dangerous.”

Federman was joined on the program by Israeli military correspondent Yossi Yehoshua of the Yediot Ahronot daily and Jack Khoury, an Arab affairs expert from the Haaretz daily. Host Arad Nir led the conversation.

The interview is available online in Hebrew (at 24:56).